Pay for social workers could hit 15-year low in 2020

A report by the resolution foundation said real-terms pay for professionals in health and social care could be lower in 2020 than it was in 2005

Photo: Gourmet Photography/Fotolia

Social work pay could fall to its lowest real-terms level for 15 years by 2020, new analysis of public sector pay has suggested.

A report by the Resolution Foundation has said average pay across the public sector would be “£1,700 lower in 2019-20 than in 2009-10”. In health and social work, projections for average pay in 2020 suggest it would be “lower than in 2004-05” in real terms. This would mean “over 15 years of lost pay growth”, the report said.

The statistics for average pay in health and social work were collected from the Office for National Statistics’ weekly survey on average earnings by industry.

Living standards

The figures for social work were grouped with health.

The definition of social work includes children and adult’s social work, and the average pay for other professionals in social care.

The Resolution Foundation warned that falling pay could have a “direct impact” on living standards for public sector employees. Pay falls could also make it harder to recruit new workers in the public sector, it said.

“Where this pressure comes alongside rising demand and uncertainty over migrant worker policy – such as in healthcare – the impact may be compounded,” the report said.

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14 Responses to Pay for social workers could hit 15-year low in 2020

  1. Linda March 15, 2017 at 1:06 pm #

    Is this legal ?
    Can it be challenged in the courts?
    We have not had any real pay rises fo the past 7-8 years and are just expected to shut up and put up
    Is it not time to make a stand?

  2. Ndidi Igwe March 15, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

    Another smart move by the government to further cripple an already struggling sector and profession which is not a well paid one in the first place. Let me get this straight… So social work students are saddled with huge debts of student loans upon graduation and then expected to do ‘the dirty job’ for almost next to nothing??!
    Why does social work always get the end of the stick? I think its time social workers take a stand, this is too much.

  3. The Phantom March 15, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

    For goodness sake…… another nail in the coffin of this beautiful profession (well in my eyes at least). What is to become of public sector social work – which I feel is in crisis?? Wages dwindling on the vine as pressures and personal responsibility increases to a point where I sadly read on this forum, weekly disciplinary action surrounding not keeping up with the paperwork & recordings & blanking out diary’s with admin time!

    The threat of mass industrial action can only be a good thing…. given that the same threat from prison staff made more money available and a re-think of that particular profession.

    I’m starting to think about that old adage…. ‘Never work with children or animals’ W.C. Fields; sadly I am thinking ‘social work’ should be added to that list!

  4. Longtime SW March 15, 2017 at 4:00 pm #

    Social workers can make a stand by only working contracted hours for the poor rates we earn – no night-time working at home, no report writing/catching up at week-ends – not sure where this would work as privatisation is till the aim (which, agency colleagues, will mean a driving down of rates)

    All this whilst this Govt protect the wealthy tax-dodgers (individuals and corporate)

    No-one owes us a living but we have a right to expect not to owe to live.

    • Ivan March 17, 2017 at 7:52 am #

      Wow…..I remember those days, not long ago before “smart agile working”. When your computer was fixed and locked up in an office at 6pm; when work mobiles were shared 2 amongst 11 and locked up at 6pm…..when EDT took over at 5 and actually did some work and assessments…. When work started at 9….when managers were sensible……. Unfortunately all thst stopped around 2011…. We have all been duped into feeling responsible by having to take our office home with us. We should all leave council equipment in the office locked up every Friday. That would be a good start!

  5. A Man Called Horse March 15, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

    Social workers need to understand that this Government hates you and will make your life very difficult. The Government have vilified Social workers at every opportunity and have demoralised them with their attacks on pay, pensions, terms and conditions and this will continue. Austerity is a political choice and someone has to pay for the Bankers wrecking of the economy in 2008.

    It is shameful what the Tories have done to the Social Work profession. I am coming to the end of my career as a Social worker and have really had enough of restructures driven by Austerity and cuts. Really how can it be fair in any conceivable definition of the word fair that our pay will be lower in 2020 than it was in 2005

  6. Mel March 15, 2017 at 8:18 pm #

    Work your contracted hours and when you are being asked to do too much work out in writing to your supervisor that your caseload feels unmanageable and unsafe and you cannot take more. Always in writing.

    The problem with our profession is that we are damned by colleagues who are happy to say yes to everything at the expense of any other life. They eventually burn out, either in work or personal life, whilst those of us who work to rule manage but are not favourites of the managers because we won’t say yes to everything, because we are seen as being awkward or difficult, or even lazy because we won’t arrive early, stay late and then continue to work from home.

    If you do your job to help families, whether children or adults, then just bear in mind that working that way is likely not really helping your own family. Something always have to give in the end, don’t let it be your own life.

    • Ivan March 17, 2017 at 7:47 am #

      Agreed….. Until anyone doing this is hauled up in front of hcpc…. and they say the buck stops with the SW…….

  7. sara March 16, 2017 at 6:13 pm #

    Try being an independent practice educator. no pay rise for 12 years, 33% pay cut 2 years ago, no paid holidays, no sick pay, no pensions and overheads such as insurance, petrol costs and the list is endless,

    what price the training of social workers?

    • Ivan March 17, 2017 at 7:45 am #

      Without meaning to sound flippant, that’s actually a choice you have made to be an independent worker without a contract so…..not sure how that’s relevant to public sector wages?

      You work in the private sector by default, providing services to the public sector.

      • dragon breath March 17, 2017 at 1:16 pm #

        …In some areas there are not enough qualified PEs willing or able to support social work students in local authority or PVI placements and so independent PE’s are vital and fill an essential gap. Independent PEs are relevant to the public sector wages debate because many public sector social workers who are PEs find that in order to fulfil their PE responsibilities they have to work outside of their contracted hours, thus ‘choosing’ to significantly reduce their hourly rate or work for free, whichever way you want to interpret it. Most PEs are not financially recognised for this and so choose not to take on students. The impact of this on our profession is huge. Independent PE’s are providing services to our profession, to HEIs, to students and to our service users. If you don’t already know how much Independent PEs earn do google info about the placement fee. Last I was aware £20 per day per student is split between the placement provider and the Independent PE. minimum 1.5 hours weekly supervision, Direct Observation time, three-way meeting time, contact with university and midway/final meetings, additional time spent on any problems and issues through the placement, cost of travel and parking etc etc…………….It’s actually a choice but so is working in statutory social work. I don’t think its helpful for social workers to turn against each other based on the perceived colour of grass they are wading through on the other side.

  8. Owen Paul March 17, 2017 at 11:06 am #

    Since 2008.

    1% rise, followed by 4 years pay freeze, (two years under the last labour ‘government’). 1% pay rise followed by another year pay freeze. Followed by three years 1% including this one.

    In effect ten years of pay reduction. Before tax, as I’m at the top of my scale, I’ve had an increase before tax of under £200 per year in total.

    I agree with Horse re this government but was it any better under the last Labour lot. No it wasn’t. Social care is an easy target as we are a ‘captive audience’. We could ‘work to rule’ and only do our contracted hours, can you imagine the mess 40+ cases would be in and who would take the flak? HCPC here we come.

    Contact your supervisor/manager. Ha.

    Industrial action, Do you really think the unions would support it. They’ve caved in over pay, conditions and restructures in my area each time in the last ten years.

  9. Jayne March 19, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

    I agree entirely with the sentiments of leaving work in work, that was the good old days when we had some work life balance. Now we have threats of competency if we are late in filing assessments etc, the 26 (often lower ) timescales imposed on us by courts ( not helped when a judge says ‘the social worker will just have to work over the weekend’) means we often have NO choice in working out of hours. They have us over a barrel and I don’t see anything on the horizon that will change it.

  10. Longtime SW March 20, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

    But colleagues – we have to start somewhere . . . . . from small acorns grow oak trees – it is not actually illegal to work your contracted hours – evidence will be overwhelmingly in your favour at any industrial tribunal (dig out your contract of employment for starters) – join the union if only to get very competent legal representation if the worst comes to the worst – as far as the HCPC goes, they are a quasi-judicial setting appealable to courts and HAVE to take regard of employment law – if enough worked their 37/38 hour contracted week for just a month, remained firm in resolve, you can bet that LA senior managers in turn would be looking over their shoulder and maybe take responsibility to say enough is enough to central govt – wishful thinking??